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Looking for Advice on What to Study [CIS, Chem, ME]

  1. Nov 18, 2017 #1
    So, I'm well into my career. I have an AAS in Mechatronics and used it to do controls work for a couple years. I've been an avid "computer guy" since I was about 10. Worked a paper route to buy my first computer, then a dishwasher on weekends for about four months to buy components and build my first computer when I was 12. I'm already quite well-versed in IT and have gotten my feet wet in Enterprise systems and networking.

    With my degree I started in the electrical/controls department at a local manufacturing plant and within a year I was the plant's head PLC and instrumentation guy, mostly due to their desperation to fill the position, but I'll take it. So when it comes to controls and instrumentation I'm largely self-taught. The same goes with networking, though I did take two years of cisco certification classes in high school. I have never been all that mechanical, but I found I get better and better as I do it more. Then I decided I wanted to pursue an engineering degree and couldn't reconcile the plant's needs (on call 24/7) with my educational needs, so I decided to leave.

    I got on with a local electrician and have been doing commercial/residential and the occasional industrial when I run into it, and of course I take on any controls work I can get my hands on. I've found that I'm quite good at it. Working at the plant, I was able to work on the 180K gallon ammonia refrigeration system and I spent days at a time out in their wastewater facility doing work and have found I really enjoy those two fields of study, along with machine control. Since my move, I have been doing almost exclusively new electrical construction. Now for my dilemma.

    I have to pick a minor or technical electives. I have picked power systems as a specialization, but given that I would like to do wastewater/refrigeration and possibly beer/liquor/wine production systems as my "niche" in the industry I'm not sure which route to take.

    I room to do basic mechanical engineering, as I find fluid systems quite interesting, but also feel that I can take chemistry or chemical engineering classes to get a better grip on processes that I will be controlling. Of course, chemical engineers would be designing the processes on a larger scale, but you still need controls guys to implement those processes and make them all work together. So I could use technical electives and try to take chemical engineering classes instead of mechanical engineering classes so that I would have a more in-depth knowledge of what I'm controlling.

    Next, I could also concentrate of CIS by means of programming, networking and database classes to fill those technical electives, but I also run into prerequisite issues I need to look into, however with my hefty background and real-world knowledge I may be able to get the professors to allow me in their class without the prerequisite classes, and I feel that the CIS side of things would be much easier to learn via certification or in-field experience, where as with ME or CHE may not.

    Do you guys have any thoughts or recommendations on the issue?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2017 #2
    If you want to control chemical processes (brewing, etc), I'd suggest the ME degree. The ChemEs will design the systems, specify what temps are required for what time periods, etc, but they are not that big on system dynamics; that's an ME topic. You will not go badly wrong with ME, EE, or ChemE, but ME gives you the most broad background for employment opportunities.
  4. Nov 19, 2017 #3
    If you really have your heart set on working with chemical engineering systems, and are confident of the opportunities in that field, some ChemE electives would be helpful. But, if you are not sure, then electives in ME and CIS have more general applicability.
  5. Nov 21, 2017 #4
    Thanks for the the info guys. I just know that regardless of what I end up doing, controlling chemical processes will be a big part of it, but it looks like going for ME classes would be best to complement my career path.
  6. Dec 5, 2017 #5


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    Just now noticed your thread.

    Funny thing; I started my university studies thinking about Chemical Engineering as a career. But soon realized Physics was what I really loved, so ended up with a BS in Engineering Physics. That degree, for me anyway, gave me the chance to work in lots of different science areas. My only regret was not getting an advanced degree in Physics.
  7. Dec 5, 2017 #6


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    You haven't discussed what options you actually have available to you. If you are working and need to keep working, you need to consider a college program that will allow you to get a degree while you work. Some larger schools have evening programs and offer enough courses in the evening, late afternoon, or weekends that you could get a degree in whichever discipline you choose.
    Most don't. If you are in an area of the country where you are close to an hour to get to such a class, you should consider a distance learning (online) program from a reputable school that does offer what you want.
    I would also suggest you pick a program that has ABET accreditation. Not a must have, but if you decide to pursue a professional engineering license, it has become a basic requirement.
    I believe that an ME or EE type program will be much easier to find vs Chem eng if you do pursue a distance learning program.
    My 3 cents (inflation).
  8. Dec 5, 2017 #7
    Thank you for the tips CalcNerd. I'm actually already in a well-respected electrical engineering program. They also offer CE and ME. I'm just in limbo at the moment about exactly what type of classes I want to fill my general technical electives with. I know I want to focus on my weaker points, which is why I was thinking CE or ME, though I do agree that ME will be more generally applicable, and when it comes to pretty much any system, as long as I know what conditions need to be kept, it is just a matter of selecting the right components and utilizing them properly and safely.
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